Beyond for or against? Multi-option alternatives to a corrective referendum

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Referendums commonly offer a binary choice between supporting and rejecting proposed legislation. Binary designs benefit from simplicity and guarantee a majority result, but also provoke voting biases and interpretation challenges. Referendum designs offering multiple policy alternatives provide a different approach which could alleviate binary referendum challenges whilst maintaining the aggregative benefits. Offering more than two options, however, raises new challenges in designing the referendum process and obtaining majority results. This article uses survey data collected on a corrective referendum held in the Netherlands in 2018 to compare the challenges faced by binary and multi-option referendum designs respectively. The analysis demonstrates how the multi-option design empowers voters in expressing their preferences and delivers more detailed and constructive referendum results. Building on the survey data, the article subsequently discusses the challenges of extending choice and concludes that alternative voting methods can mitigate some of these challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102091
Number of pages11
JournalElectoral Studies
Issue numberDecember
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Multi-option referendum
  • Referendum challenges
  • Binary referendum
  • Referendum design
  • Ranking
  • Approval voting


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